It’s Kevin Youkilis’ Year to Establish Himself as Red Sox’ Home Run Leader

by NESN Staff

February 25, 2010

It's Kevin Youkilis' Year to Establish Himself as Red Sox' Home Run Leader The Red Sox added a lot of new faces to the clubhouse this offseason, and finally, it's almost time to see how they'll contribute to the 2010 squad. Will Adrian Beltre challenge Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz for the team home run title? Will Mike Lowell be wearing a Red Sox uniform when opening day rolls around on April 4? Will Dustin Pedroia yet again switch spots in the batting order?

For now, we can only speculate, but soon, we'll have the answers.

Who will lead the Red Sox in home runs this season?
–Nicholas, Portland, Maine

My pick is Kevin Youkilis. I think he will end up in the mid-to-upper 30s. I would like to think that a healthy, mentally right David Ortiz could challenge him. I think this will be a huge year for Youkilis.

A lot has been made of the new balance the Red Sox have in their lineup. I am looking forward to seeing how Adrian Beltre settles into a regular routine at Fenway Park. Yes, he had one huge 48-home run season, and it is unlikely he will do it again, especially batting down the order. However, most feel that Fenway will be great for his swing and his approach. So to summarize, Youkilis will lead, Ortiz has a chance, as always and expect more from Beltre than you thought.

In some circles, RBIs are considered an overrated stat. Do you agree with this way of thinking?
–Andrew, Cambridge, Mass.

Nope. I am an old-school guy in this respect. I think there are some very special players in the majors who lock in and bring their game to another level when there are runners to be driven in. They're great RBI guys. Some players say their concentration changes in those situations; for some, they try too hard and change their approach, but the good ones get it done more often than not. I think if you are on the Red Sox, there are always guys on, so some guys at the bottom of the lineup have more RBI chances than in some other places. The name of the game is to score more runs than the opponent. You can have all the on-base guys in the world, but in my opinion, you need a good RBI guy to make it work. 

Which scenario is more likely — Mike Lowell finishes the season with the Red Sox, he gets dealt during spring training or he starts the year in Boston but is moved by the trade deadline?
–Claire, Pembroke, Mass.

I am not sure. I really thought they would move Lowell early in spring. Not sure what has changed, other than it is hard to move a guy when everybody knows you need and want to move him. Now, some people are wondering whether David Ortiz can return to the David Ortiz of old — and if he does not, Mike Lowell is an option in a platoon in the DH capacity. A good option. Remember, he was still hitting during his hip injury in 2008 and after his hip surgery in 2009. The only problem he had was running, and some felt his range was compromised defensively. I still believe he will be traded, but keeping him around as insurance is a thought.

The Red Sox reportedly have kicked around the idea of moving Dustin Pedroia down in the lineup to fifth and batting Marco Scutaro second. Could this work? Has there ever been a more versatile hitter than Pedroia, who's batted first, second, third, fourth, seventh, eight and ninth in his career?
–Matt, Danvers, Mass.

Actually, Kevin Youkilis has been more versatile over the years — in the lineup and in the field defensively, as well. I see your point, though, and agree to some extent. You really could put Pedroia anywhere. I sort of like him where he is, hitting second. I think the top four — Jacoby Ellsbury, Pedroia, Victor Martinez and Youkilis — can match up with just about anybody. Moreover, they can protect each other within the lineup. I think if you spread guys out, they are less likely to see good pitches than when they are clumped together at the top. If you get into the season and the production is not coming from the middle and the bottom, then you may consider it.

Do you think Terry Francona has a chance to make it into the Baseball Hall of Fame one day? What is the criteria for a manager to be inducted into Cooperstown?
–Brad, Franklin, Mass.

I talked to Earl Weaver about this a couple of years ago, and it comes down to this: wins, wins and more wins. Mix in multiple championship wins, and you've got a Hall of Fame manager. Terry Francona's early days in Philadelphia — and four years of bad teams — set his overall record back a tad. His perennial winning in Boston, coupled with two World Series rings, have made him a very viable candidate down the road, especially taking into consideration he will likely be here for many years to come.

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